Dubai Airshow gets ready for takeoff

Dubai Airshow gets ready for takeoff

New purpose-built site at Dubai World Central set to make debut for region’s premier aviation event that may reset the record books for aircraft sales, writes Muzaffar Rizvi

By Muzaffar Rizvi

Published: Sun 17 Nov 2013, 8:55 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 5:29 AM

The dubai airshow is all set for a roaring start today at a new purpose-built site at Dubai World Central, or DWC, which last month saw the grand opening of Al Maktoum International Airport for passenger service.

The UAE’s airlines — Emirates, Etihad Airways and flydubai — are expected to dominate 
the show



The Dubai Airshow started life as Arab Air in 1986, a small civil aviation trade show which F&E organised at the Dubai World Trade Centre.


Spurred on by substantial Middle East investment in civil and military aviation the first Dubai Airshow was held in 1989 at Dubai International Airport.


The show enjoyed rapid growth with the 1991 show already three times larger than the previous show. Due to the outbreak of the Gulf War the event was moved from January to November and had a strong military focus given recent events in the region.


The show’s rapid growth continued as was evidenced in the new, purpose-built exhibition centre — Airport Expo — where the show has been held since 1999.


The 2001 show successfully rose to the challenge of the downturn in the aviation industry following the events of September 11, 2001, and closed its run with a confirmed order intake of a record $15.6 billion.


Dubai Airshow 2003 was the fastest-selling in the event’s history; 550 companies from 36 countries participated along with 13 national pavilions.


In 2005 the show hosted the debut of the A380 in the Middle East. It arrived in full Emirates livery for its largest customer and long queues formed to visit this state-of-the art aircraft.


The 10th Dubai Airshow was held in 2007 — by this time the event was firmly established as one of the top aerospace events in the world. The 2007 show smashed all previous records with more than $155 billion worth of deals announced, the highest ever for any global aviation event.


By 2009 the show was hosting 890 exhibitors from 47 countries, doubling in size in just eight years. Coming just after the economic downturn, the air show proved that the industry is still robust and growing in the Middle East.


The 2011 airshow commemorated the 40th anniversary of the founding of the UAE. The 12th edition saw debut of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the Middle East, with orders said to have reached $63 billion.

Courtesy of

The region’s premier biennial aviation show, which is ranked third in terms of size after Paris and Farnborough, is expected to outshine the past events with record deals, more trade visitors and exhibitors from around the world.

F&E Aerospace, the event organiser, is expecting up to 60,000 trade visitors, around 1,000 exhibitors and about 1,500 international and local media to throng the new site during the next five days. It said that the 645,000sqm exhibition space for 13th edition of the show is more than double the size of its former site at Airport Expo.

The air show, which first launched in 1989, has become pivotal for plane manufacturers, engines and support equipment makers. The event, which will display 150 aircraft including 50 business jets, is expected to generate more than $125 billion in sales of new airplanes, engines and support equipment for key international and regional airlines. The previous edition in 2011 had recorded more than $63 billion in orders.

The UAE’s airlines — Emirates, Etihad Airways and flydubai — are expected to steal the show by placing huge orders worth billions of dollars to Airbus and Boeing. From the region, Qatar Airways will join international airlines like Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific and British Airways, among others, to announce big deals during the show. Engine manufacturers Rolls-Royce, General Electric and Pratt & Whitney also expect booming business as aircraft sales thrive in the region.

“Gone are the days when air shows were dominated by Paris and Farnborough. Today, it is all about the Dubai Airshow,” Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at London-based StrategicAero Research, told Khaleej Times.

He said the emirate is home to two of the fastest-growing airlines in the world, Emirates and flydubai. Also, its strategic location and new purpose-built site has made the air show a choice of destination for plane manufacturers, suppliers and exhibitors.

“Dubai is a game-changer in today’s aviation market. The legacy of Paris and Farnborough are important, but the emirate’s prominence as a venue for game-changing deals is one that the two European hosts will never match,” Ahmad said.

Jitendra Gianchandani, chairman and managing partner of Dubai-based Jitendra Consulting Group, echoed the same views and said the new purpose-built site of the Dubai Airshow at DWC is set to be the largest in its more than two decades of history with its improved facilities such as a larger static park, catering facilities and improved parking amenities.

“It is the beginning of the new era in Middle East countries and it will play a big part in making the UAE as a hub for aviation industries. This year’s show is expected to be busy-as-bees as over 1,000 exhibitors and 60,000 trade visitors are expected,” Gianchandani told Khaleej Times.

According to another analyst, civil aviation is one of the main pillars of Dubai’s booming economy. Currently, the aviation sector is contributing about 28 per cent to the emirate’s gross domestic production and this percentage may climb up to 32 per cent by 2020 when Al Maktoum International will be fully developed and emerge as the world’s largest airport.

Aircraft to watch

Ahmad said the Dubai Airshow has now morphed into arguably the most important venue for new aeroplane launches backed by a slew of order activity, underscoring the vibrancy and robustness of the market.

“In recent years, we have seen many big orders being announced at the air show — it means that airlines, aerospace firms and other aviation outlets understand the vital importance of the Middle East and why it is the fastest growing region in the world. To that end, the aviation sector in the GCC has needed a platform to showcase its prominence and the Dubai Airshow is an ideal destination to introduce new planes and book orders,” he said.

Boeing is promoting two versions of a redesigned 777X aircraft and single-aisle jet 737 Max at the airshow and confident of receiving huge orders from Middle East and international airlines who are keen to cash in on the travel-industry boom. An order haul for 777X would be a boost for the US plane manufacturer ahead of the aircraft’s commercial debut in 2020, analysts say.

European planemaker Airbus is pinning its hopes on its new fuel-efficient jet, the A350, to become the world’s biggest aircraft manufacturer within four or five years. It may also beef-up orders for the medium-haul A320neo.

Aviation analysts will be closely watching the order book for the 777X and A350, and expect Boeing will stage a strong comeback by securing mega deals at the show.

Canada’s Bombardier, which successfully launched its C-Series commercial aircraft in September, is also likely to woo international and regional airlines at the air show. The world’s third-largest civil aircraft manufacturer is banking on its new jet series that seats 100 to 150 people while its slightly larger version, the CS300, may dominate the company’s order book at the airshow.

“Bombardier appears solidly-positioned for improving operational execution beginning this quarter and could see significant new aircraft orders across several of its business, regional and commercial aircraft product lines at Dubai Airshow,” according to a note from industry analysts at William Blair & Co, a US-based financial services company.

ATR, the world’s leading regional turboprop aircraft manufacturer, will display its new-generation ATR 72-600. The Toulouse-based company has become the world leader in the market for regional aircraft with 90 seats or less and will present the 72-seat ATR 72-600, which is considered the best-selling regional aircraft in the world in its category. Today, the planemaker’s customer base comprises over 180 operators in 90 countries and has sold over 1,300 aircraft since its establishment in 1981.

Ahmad said the new home of the Dubai Airshow may reset the record book due to expected announcements at the event. Major international airlines, including the leading Gulf carriers — Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways — will use the platform to unveil big deals to sustain their future growth. However, aviation circles and analysts say Boeing may emerge as the major beneficiary of the five-day show when it concludes on Thursday.

“Privately, Boeing is targeting three different regions for 777X launch customers. Lufthansa [Europe] has already publicly committed to buying 34 new 777-9Xs, while Emirates [Middle East] will end up being the biggest buyer in the history of the company. Cathay Pacific [Asia] is also looking at between 25-40 777Xs to replace its ageing fleet of 747-400s.”

“Between just these three airlines, Boeing could well have between 160-200 orders alone, depending on the final numbers selected by the airlines. Whichever way you cut it, the 777X is going to score in big numbers and firmly push the smaller A350-1000 into obscurity if not outright irrelevance,” Ahmad said.

There are recent indications that British Airways is looking at the 777X too and may well be tempted to announce a formal deal at the Dubai Airshow, although there are no specific numbers at this stage that indicate the potential size of any planned order. But given that British Airways has a huge 747-400 fleet to phase out, it’s not entirely out of the realm that they could add between 35-50 777X jets.

“The planned Emirates order alone looks poised to be the biggest single order that Boeing will have ever won, so in that respect, this single transaction will be far bigger than has ever been recorded at the likes of Farnborough or Paris.

“If Boeing can tie up a string of 777X deals at the show, then the $63 billion worth of deals that were done at the 2011 Dubai Airshow will easily be surpassed. As it is, there is the potential, depending on who you ask, that Boeing could walk away with orders and commitments for 300 or more 777Xs,” Ahmad said.

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